Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks @ Bottom Lounge

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Thurs. July 2nd 2009

Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks rolled into Chicago on Thursday for what is becoming an annual summer gig.  This year the setting was The Bottom Lounge, having played as a band at Lollapalooza last year, solo at Pitchfork in 2007 and on this night, as a warm-up for a 4th of July show headlining Milwaukee’s 2nd annual Red, White & Blue Ribbon Festival.

The setlist was heavily peppered with new unrecorded songs and many of the jammier tunes found on 2008’s Real Emotional Trash.  A notable exception being “Jenny & The Ess-Dog” from his solo debut, which Malkmus lovingly referred to as a chestnut.  SM and The Jicks’ wit and humor were on display throughout a set filled with frequent and wide ranging banter, including jabs at Sonic Youth, Green Day, Better Than Ezra, The Police, Lenny Kravitz and Dave Grohl.  There were tirades about Twitter and Facebook and how in using social networks one was letting “the man” watch over ever move you make.  To which Malkmus responded, “Obama’s president, we’re all fine.  Especially Michelle, she’s fine, the finest first lady I ever did see.”  I laughed a lot and at times felt I was at an improv show and not a concert.  It’s a good thing because many of the jams and extended solos left me flat and underwhelmed by their tediousness and dullness.

A highlight for me was “Hopscotch Willie,” on which drummer Janet Weiss made great use of her ride cymbal while Malkmus soloed and built up to the fantastic ending on which he sings “Willie was found not far from the scene/he was panting like a pit-bull minus the mean” in a throat defying falsetto.

Unfortunately the night was dominated by the guitar noodling and aimless jams of latter-day Malkmus.  I can’t help but think that he needs to be back in a band.  OK, these Jicks are well rehearsed, but like a writer needs an editor, I think Malkmus needs to be part of a group and not the namesake and main draw.  That being said, the encore was punchier, poppier and included the jovial sing-along “Baby C’Mon.”  One notable announcement from the stage was that there will be a new Quasi album this fall (bassist Joanna and drummer Janet) and Mike Clark (guitar/keyboard) will be working at his bar.  SO, that leaves the window open for a geek like me to keep dreaming of the return of Pavement.

Full setlist:

  1. Polvo
  2. Fall Away
  3. Jenny & The Ess-Dog
  4. Gardenia
  5. Senator
  6. It Kills
  7. Pub Rock
  8. Hopscotch Willie
  9. Bill Fay
  10. Elmo Delmo
  11. Tigers
  12. Cribz
  13. Cold Son
  14. Real Emotional Trash

Encore

  1. Dark Wave
  2. Baby C’Mon
  3. Dragonfly Pie

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View all 60 of my photos at my Flickr page http://www.flickr.com/photos/39771243@N08/

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